Computer Science @ Pembroke, Cambridge in 2017

Interview format

CSAT on the first day; 2 interviews on the second day

Interview content

Don't worry if the test seems difficult; on interview seemed better than the other.

Best preparation

Use Cambridge departmental webpages; ask your teachers for help.

Final thoughts

Don't overthink the process and relax.

Remember this advice isn't official. There is no guarantee it will reflect your experience because university applications can change between years. Check the official Cambridge and Oxford websites for more accurate information on this year's application format and the required tests.

Also, someone else's experience may not reflect your own. Most interviews are more like conversations than tests and like, any conversation, they are quite interactive.

Interview Format

I had CSAT at computer labs in the afternoon of the first day: a written paper that was about 2 hours. Transport was arranged to take us back to college after and I had dinner and spent the night at the college. On the second day I had two interviews. The first was about 20 minutes with one professor - it was more of a problem solving activity than an interview about myself. In the afternoon my second interview was with one interviewer and someone else watching on but not taking part; it lasted about half an hour.

What happened in your interview? How did you feel?

The CSAT was long maths-based questions leading on from the basic A-Level syllabus and some problem-solving questions. It was recommended to answer 10/20 questions but I think I only managed about 3 as I really understood very little of it.

The first interview was a maths-based problem that started out simple and gradually got more complex and abstract as certain rules changed and developed. The second interview was just discussing and showing how to solve the problem. I was very nervous and didn't really understand some of the more complex stuff, the interviewer was not able to explain certain things more clearly and I really thought that it went very badly as the interviewer seemed to get quite frustrated that I wasn't able to solve the final stage.

The second interview started similarly with a problem-solving task but it was less maths-based, and then we talked about my interests and things mentioned in my personal statement; I enjoyed this interview a lot more.

How did you prepare?

Using the Cambridge computer science department website for sample CSAT papers and information, and getting help from my maths teacher to work through some of the problems.

Looking back, what advice would you give to your past self?

By the time I got to my final interview I had pretty much given up hope of getting an offer because I thought the others had gone so badly, I was very relaxed and not nervous anymore which actually really helped - some advice is try not to overthink it and just relax.